Sunday, June 30, 2013

Saturday Evening Publics

Most rinks have Friday and Saturday publics. There's sometimes a DJ, but mostly it's just loud pop/rock/rap/whatever music with (usually) lowered lights, and (sometimes) something like a disco ball.

What the rink makes it sound like in their ads:

What it's really like

Just in case you're wondering if it's worth going to for practice: probably not. Take your girl/boyfriend and squeal and grab her/him a lot. You'll fit right in.

Saturday, June 29, 2013

So, You're in LTS and You Want to Skate a Freestyle Session

So, you're in Learn to Skate and you want to practice your new skills, but you find public ice just too crowded.  You've heard of this mysterious thing called 'freestyle' ice, where there's only a handful of skaters on it. So you check the schedule, you pay the fee and you get on Freestyle Ice.

Oops! Maybe you shouldn't be there.
Sadly for you, you've just violated one of the sacred rules of figure skating. As a skater for you to get on Freestyle Ice one of 4 things needs to happen:
1. You have passed Basic 8 (or Delta in ISI)
2. If you have not passed Basic 8 or Delta, you are in lesson with a coach
3. A coach (probably the skating director) has approved you to skate on freestyle sessions even though you're in LTS (I don't know how rare this is, but it doesn't seem to be frequent)
4. In some rinks (apparently training rinks) you have to get the skating director's approval to go on freestyle

The skaters on a freestyle session are relying on all the other skaters to know freestyle etiquette, be able to skate and observe the other skaters, and be able to avoid other skaters.  If you don't have good heads-up skills and good stopping skills, you can irritate the heck out of the other skaters and maybe be a safety hazard.

If you are in LTS and you don't understand the problem list below, that's an indicator you shouldn't be on freestyle.

1. You don't yield properly to skaters in program or lessons
2. You hang around harness alley
3. You hog the lutz circle.
4. You can't stop quickly enough
5. You don't have a sense of where the other skaters are headed and you get in their way

I've never seen a figure skater kicked off a freestyle session for not being qualified, though I suppose it does happen. Coaches will not talk to you in case you are another coach's student, so don't look for any help there. Initially people will be polite and avoid you, but eventually they'll get frustrated with you in the way. What may happen is some of the other skaters will find you an irritant and may do, shall we say, ice bullying to get you off.  They may skate really close to you, they may spin in your path, they may jump close to you, or try other ways to physically intimidate you to get you to leave.
If you can't play by the freestyle rules, they want you gone
This is not bullying of one freestyle skater by another (bad enough in itself) but bullying of someone who doesn't know the rules, and doesn't belong on the session. It's their only way of letting you know you don't belong. Because:

"The skaters on a freestyle session are relying on all the other skaters to know freestyle etiquette, be able to skate and observe the other skaters, and be able to avoid other skaters. " You are a danger to them, and their polite actions to avoid you means they waste precious training time, so eventually they get more forceful.

So you're frustrated with the ice tourists getting in your way? Multiply that by 10 and you have the frustration of a freestyle skater avoiding your LTS self.

Yeah, frustrating, but you'll have to keep practicing on public for a while longer.

And before you cry 'It's unfair!', there are certain sessions I avoid because they have a higher proportion of high level skaters. So, even in freestyle, there's divisions.

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

The Talented Adult Male Skater

We have a number of younger male skaters at my rink. It's guys with axels all over the place.

Plus we have two adult male skaters. One's an elite senior from another country; the other is a show skater who shows up during the off season. I don't see them often, because they tend to skate during the weekday freestyles.  Like other rinks I've been at, weekend freestyles here tend to be populated with lower level freestyle skaters.

So, if you don't have talented adult male skaters at your rink, you may want to know what it's like when one lands a multi-rotation jump near you. Here's what it's like:

It's like a flash of lightening hit the tree next to you.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Test Hair 3: The Ultimate, No-Fail Way

So, we've covered Test Hair with a wiglet, Test Hair in a french twist, now it's time for test hair that cannot fail.

Sunday, June 23, 2013

A Good Day On Public Ice

So there I am, inside the cones in the center. It's a clearly marked center. I'm working on, let's say, 5 step mohawks in a circle.  Other figure skaters are sharing the space with me. We're cool. Lookin' out for each other, yeeah.

And then...I hear....HOCKEY SKATES BEHIND ME!
Fear grips my heart.
And some slack jawed hockey boy of an age OLD ENOUGH TO KNOW BETTER, goes through the circle...

And the figure skater rink guard WHO'S GOT A DAMN GOOD AXEL, gets in the hockey boy's face, and does this...

I'm like this...on the inside
yeah, baby, yeah!

Friday, June 21, 2013

Secret Adult Freestyle

At my first rink, I was a regular. I skated public several times a week, and I'd made friends with the the two pairs of ice dancers, the skating director, and the adult freestyle skaters. I was just learning, but unknown to me, I had a reputation for being alert on the ice (thank you horse show peripheral vision). So, one day the skating director said, "Why don't you come to Secret Adult Freestyle."

"I'm not out of Basic Skills."

"Oh, that's okay. You're aware of other skaters. A lot of people aren't."

So, she told me the schedule. "Sunday, 8-10."

I looked at the freestyle schedule on my way out, I'd never bothered before, there was nothing on the schedule Sunday before 11 am when there was stick and puck.

Invitation Only Secret Adult Freestyle
For some reason, I got the impression that every rink had invitation only secret adult freestyle. I was new to figure skating and I thought this was one of those little secrets of the sport that you only learn about if you know the right people.  It makes perfect sense to have invitation only secret adult freestyle. One person to open the rink on a Sunday morning when there's dead ice is all it takes, and then pass the word out to the adults.  Bam! Profit!

Ours was the honor system. There was an envelope and a sign up sheet. You shoved your $8 for an hour (oh, halcyon days of yore! EIGHT DOLLARS! I now pay EIGHTEEN!) in the envelope and got on the ice.

One day kid skaters started showing up for the session to get ready for a comp. After a few weeks of this I said to my friend, a male skater, "I miss when it was Secret Adult Freestyle."

He gave me a funny look. "What are you talking about?"

I told him about the invitation, my vision of clandestine freestyles in rinks across the U.S.

He burst into hysterical laughter. "It's not 'secret', it's on the schedule!"

"No it's not. I checked."

He pulled out the schedule and there it was. "See! It's not SECRET adult freestyle. It's SUNDAY adult freestyle."

Thursday, June 20, 2013

New Blades; New Skates

So you've got new boots and new blades.

That first 3 minutes is terrifying, isn't it?

Here's what it's like.

The subtitle to this is : My First Video.  Maybe I'll do some more now that I've figured it out!

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Breaking Up is Hard to Do

I've had a number of coaches, and I've left some with no harm no foul separation. The usual reasons; the rink closed, the coach retired, long term injury, I moved to another rink.  Once I left a coach, shall we call it 'for cause'. This is awkward, but few people think about how to do this. I'm going to talk about my approach.

Some people aren't confrontational.  Believe it or not, I'm not confrontational. But when I make a decision, I don't dither around; I execute....and move on.

So in my case when I was thinking about leaving the coach, I had tried a negotiation first, which did not work. I then thought things out for a couple of weeks while making my decision.  The day I decide to announce my decision, I waited until the coach and I were on the ice at the beginning of the lesson. I paid my lesson fee first thing, then I said, "I'm not happy with XXX. I've decided to get another coach." I identified my reason in a tactful manner, "I'm giving two months notice, so the end date would be XXXX." After that point, the lesson fee was going not to my feet, but to discussion. I considered that a price to pay.

Some things I thought out before hand.

1. I made sure I had all my  bills paid before I make the announcement.  I had cash in my hand and paid the coach at the beginning of the lesson, so there would be no need to speak to each other afterwards if  tempers were high.

2. Know beforehand if you will agree to a negotiation with the coach over issues that concern you. Me, I was done.  But another skater with the same problem with the same coach decided to negotiate. The skater used the following formula,  "XXX is bothering me. If we can't resolve this issue, then I'll leave on XXX date."  This worked successfully for that skater.

3. I would never quit a coach 'for cause' with a phone call or an email. If I'm going to fire someone, I do it face to face if at all possible.  Yeah, I know it seems I sandbagged this poor coach, but my negotiation attempt had failed.  And remember I was giving TWO MONTHS notice. (On the other hand, when I left coaches because of injuries, I did it by email. Thanked them profusely, wrote glowingly of their thoughtfulness and skill, and hoped that sometime in the future we could skate again. When I'm injured, I figure coaches don't expect a personal visit under those circumstances, because if I'm not skating, I'm pretty much immobile. YMMV)

A professional shouldn't publicly hold a grudge.  The next time I saw the coach, my departure was water under the bridge.  We spoke casually and made polite inquiries to each other, and I complimented the coach's students. What was said about me in the pros room, no idea.

Don't feel bad for the coach. A new student was filling my slot within a half hour.
I know this kind of situation can be emotionally draining, but if you have the urge to vent about your coach on Facebook, show some class. Don't. Vent. Just say you're leaving your coach, and leave it like that.

Yeah, don't do this.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Breakfast of Figure Skating Coaches

Well, there's the breakfast of champions....
1930's Show Skater
First woman to do double jumps
(As reported by Maribel Vinson Owens) 
But that's not what skating coaches live off anymore...

6am first freestyle. Coaches are like,

Must have coffee before get on ice.
Knock my cup off the boards...
You do half hour of power pulls
Then about 730 all the coaches are like...

okayokayokay I'm okayokay okya
sweeet sweet caffeine!!
Yeahyeah I'mgoodI'mgood!!
Me, I'm mellow.
Totally cool.

Saturday, June 8, 2013

Famous Skater Stories

Miss Bianca told me today, that she was once on freestyle with Viktor Petrenko. It was an insane freestyle. She said it had thirty-five skaters on the ice.

Then she, Viktor and another skater nearly crashed into each other.  She said, Viktor avoided the crash, shrugged and laughed it off.
The Man Has Class
(And Bedroom Eyes)

A couple of years ago, I was taking a dance lesson at Lake Placid when my coach nearly ran us into the Protopopovs. We both stopped with a foot to spare.

"Nice, move," I said as we skated away, "You nearly killed the Protopopovs."

I've written about Famous Former Olympian Now a Coach here before. When I'm on ice he glares at me. Well, maybe that's just his natural expression and he glares at everyone. Whatever. Anyway, I sometimes say "Hello dear" in my little old lady voice, then stay well, well, very well out of the way of his students.

So today, I was waiting for the ice to open, and he walks past me. It was like this:

That's me on the left.
Ten seconds later, as he stepped on the ice, he caught a toepick and nearly went down. The coach skating next to him had to grab his arm to keep him up.

Yes, I did feel all Schadenfreude.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Figure Skating Club Meeting

A couple of times a year, my club holds a meeting at the president's house.  Imagine this, you're having a party of unrelated people ranging from 6 to 60. What do you do to keep everybody happy? Well, we all show up and it's....

People you haven't seen in months come up and give you a hug, then you catch up.

There was video too!

Awards are passed out.
Even though I won't ice monitor or do announcing for tests, I'm still recognized for my support...
I'm thanked for doing my bit for test sessions.
(That was nice)
There's actually some club business--3 minutes tops!
We vote on some financial  thing.
Our president announces she's going to become a judge. Some of the board members are going to finish their board service.

It's open season next year for the club leadership! 

Just remember, I only do set up and clean up. No Responsibility! So I will just be showing up for the food!  

And now let me say a few serious words about Joining The Club. Even if you don't test, if you want to show support for your rink, and make sure that Freestyle continues to be offered, I think it's important to join the local club. Oh, I've read horror stories about some clubs, I can't speak to those. I have a wonderful club, and being a member of the club really helps me stay in contact with the leadership. I think if I want to test in the future, establishing some street fred by supporting tests and comps really helps both the club and the rink (by showing a consistent membership) and opens up opportunities in the future.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Skating Moms

The skating moms at my rink and in my club are super. You hear stories of rinks with toxic clubs, and toxic skating moms; I've never met anyone other than lovely people who support skating, the club and love their kids.  Still, they seem to fall into certain types.

The mom who never gets warm.
I've spent hours sitting around rinks, the words "I need a blanket"
has never crossed my mind. 
The mom who videos every.single. jump, crossover, spin,
lesson, and warmup. This seems to  disappear after the skater passes
pre-pre, then comes back about the time the kid gets an axel.
The mom who spends the day playing "Words with Friends"
or "Baldur's Gate."  

The mom who spends all day on the computer, doing
I have no idea what. 
The Club Board. These parents know all the USFSA rules, have contact
books a mile long, keys to the club storage, and
should be your best friends.
I've seen more Kindles at the rink than I've seen anywhere else. I wonder why.
"No, I'm not reading 'Fifty Shades of Gray'.  Honest."
Well, I guess it keeps them warm.

Then there's the best mom of all....
The mom who skates!

Saturday, June 1, 2013

Things I Wish I Could Say. 2

You're not 8 any more. You're 14. Learn to tie your own skates.

This doesn't look cute after 8
At 14, you're Old Enough to use a Lace Hook.
Good, that's out of my system.

And just for all the parents that will write in with their excuses, unless it's a Special Skater, you have to have  a really good reason to get a bye when your kid is 14.

From the age of 10, I was able to tack up a full sized horse (including tightening the girth, and putting on the bridle) and shift cattle from one field to another. Your teenager can learn to tie a pair of boots.